It seems like all of a sudden, the baby starts to get upset when other people come close. Does a child exhibiting this anxiety experience more than just negative emotions and actions? Can we help a young child overcome separation anxiety? Lets delve into this topic and see.
So, what causes separation anxiety?
Around 6 months of age, infants develop a sense of object permanence. They begin to understand that things and people that are out of sight, still exist. As this sense is developing, babies get upset when their trusted caregiver disappears. Not sure if they are coming back, the child will do everything they can not to let them go.
At about 8 months of age, infants grow more independent. They are still uncertain about being separated from their trusted caregiver, so it is at this time that separation anxiety really develops. They can sense when their trusted caregiver is about to leave and anxiety builds from that point. It wont matter if the caregiver is in the next room for less than a minute or at work, separated for several hours. The child perceives this as a separation and may get upset. Separation for a young child can seem endless. They have no idea if or when you will return and this scares them.
The timing for separation anxiety can vary and some children may experience it later , even up to 2 ½ years of age.
What is the time frame for separation anxiety?
As with “if” and “when”, a child will develop separation anxiety, this too varies. Factors such as temperament and how the parent responds are contributors to the length. The typical range is from infancy through the elementary years, but typically does not last more than a few months or so. The issues associated with this anxiety will pass with time.
What type of emotion is separation anxiety?
This anxiety is different from the normal feelings that older children get when they separate from their parents. With older children, distress can be overcome by distraction. Younger children are not this easily calmed. This anxiety is extremely stressful for both the child and the trusted caregiver. Anxiety can be passed on to your child. If you are anxious to leave, your baby will be anxious as well. Normal separation anxiety is not a diagnosis, rather a feeling.
What can we as parents and caregivers do to help a child with separation anxiety?
First and best defense is preparation. You can help prepare a child to deal with separation anxiety by:
Exposing children to many, varied people.
Talk to the baby and use positive reinforcements.
Maintain a consistent schedule and use rituals.
Play games that introduce and help develop object permanence.
Use transitional objects, such as blankets or stuffed animals.
When you expose children to many faces, they are less afraid of being around people. Some of the separation anxiety is caused by unfamiliar stimuli. Talking to your children and exposing them to places where you will leave them and people you will leave them with will help them overcome this anxiety. It is very important that parents reinforce that they will be back. Playing games such as “Peek-a-Boo” will help the child learn object permanence which will help them understand and begin to accept